BYU Wins Holy War

BYU Wins Holy War
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Mark's Thought's: NBA Playoffs--Current Format Versus Changing to Taking the Top 16 Teams.

Changing the current format of the NBA Playoffs would be a huge mistake by the league...

For the past three seasons sportswriters have started a movement to change the current format of the NBA playoffs. This has come about from the lack of talent in the Eastern Conference. The change in the format would take the top sixteen teams in the NBA, instead of the top eight teams from both of the conferences. Most of these proposed changes would allow for the division winners to be the top six seeds, and then go off of the best records from that point on for the seeding of the remaining teams. The argument for this change is basically, we currently aren't seeing the best teams in the NBA, and this change would allow for better match ups in the later rounds of the playoffs. While theses complaints are logical, and would make some sense, I think the NBA would be hurting itself by making changes to the format.

Here is the current bracket for the playoffs:

Eastern Conference
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1 Boston
8 Atlanta
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4 Cleveland
5 Washington
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3 Orlando
6 Toronto
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2 Detroit
7 Philadelphia

Western Conference
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1 Los Angeles
8 Denver
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4 Utah
5 Houston
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3 San Antonio
6 Phoenix
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2 New Orleans
7 Dallas

If the changes were made the bracket would look as follows:

1 Boston
16 Toronto
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8 Phoenix
9 Houston
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5 Utah*
12 Golden State
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4 New Orleans
13 Cleveland
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6 Orlando*
11 Denver
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3 Los Angeles
14 Washington
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7 San Antonio
10 Dallas
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2 Detroit
15 Portland
*Indicates seeded due to being a division winner.

The NBA wants the playoffs to be exciting. It is important to have series that are exciting and draw people into the playoffs. In the current format there are really compelling series. There are really only two series that aren't incredibly compelling(LAL/DEN, BOS/ATL). This would greatly change if the NBA went to the 1-16 format. There are only two series that would have any compelling interest to watch(SAS/DAL, PHX/HOU). The rest of the series would be boring and predictable. The Western conference teams would roll through most of the Eastern Conference teams, and that would cause half of the country to turn the playoffs off by the second round.

Having the East/West division in the current playoff format actually keeps more people around the country watching for a longer period of time. Watching the Cleveland vs Washington game on Saturday was boring. Both of those teams are awful. Yet, if you were to move those teams to the new format they would both be eliminated in lopsided series in the first round; however, in the first format the teams are so evenly matched that even though the first game was boring there is a possibility for a compelling well played series. The best way to keep the weaker Eastern Conference compelling is to keep the current format.

Another argument used to try and get the new playoff format, is the elimination of series that should be taking place later in the playoffs. I am sick of hearing that the Suns/Spurs series shouldn't be taking place now, but in the Western Conference Finals. If that series was meant to take place later in the playoffs, then maybe both of the teams should have played better during the regular season to avoid playing early in the playoffs. There is a reason that Suns are a six seed, they had the fifth best record in the West and didn't win their division. Yet, even in the new format this early round match up problem isn't solved. With the new format the Spurs and Mavericks would be playing in the first round as well as the Suns playing the Rockets.

Another down side to the new format would be the change in the formats of the series. Forcing teams to fly from one coast to the other in series such as LA vs. Washington, would force the NBA to go away from the 2-2-1-1-1 format to the 2-3-2 format. The 2-3-2 format is terrible. It really gives a huge advantage to the team that doesn't have home court. If the road team picks up one of the first two games, then the team with the better record is forced to go on the road for three straight games. That is a daunting task for any team. Although, I will concede that only Detroit has won all three games at home, since the NBA went to that format. Yet, the 2-2-1-1-1 format is a better for keeping the series fair.

Also the keeping of conference rivalries can't be overlooked either. During the regular season, conference and division games are more intense than when a team is playing a team out of conference. Having the great rivalries inside of the conferences is another reason for keeping the current playoff format the same. No matter how you arrange the bracket there is always going to be terrible series; however, having the conference rivalries helps to make poor match ups on paper watchable. If the current Jazz/Rocket series is an excellent example of this. On paper the Jazz should run away with the series. Yet, the rivalry these teams have, and the fact that it is a repeat of the first round match up last year really adds to the intrigue to watch the series. This wouldn't take place if the format of the playoffs was altered.

Bottom line is the NBA shouldn't alter the current format of the playoffs. No matter what format of playoff that a league decides upon there will always be bad match ups. The desire of these sportswriters to change the format is the same elitist thinking that brought about systems like the BCS. In playoffs sometimes the most popular team doesn't advance, and sometimes the best series are earlier in the playoffs. That is why they play the games.

3 comments:

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Crayton said...

Pick the top 16 teams, but give Conference match-ups priority. Home team listed first.

01 Boston
15 Toronto
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02 Detroit
14 Washington
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03 LA Lakers
16 Portland
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04 New Orleans
12 Golden State
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05 San Antonio
11 Denver
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06 Houston
12 Dallas
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09 Phoenix
07 Utah*
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08 Orlando*
13 Cleveland
*Indicates seeded due to being a division winner.

The second round can be a reseeding of teams with the same rules as the first or a switch to an 8-team bracket (ie matchups made regardless of conference).

NOTE if teams from conferences are uneven in a given year (ex. 7 from east, 9 from west), options for the first round are to round to the more even alignment multiple of 2 (8-8 over 6-10) or choose next best team between east #8 and west #10 replacing the final team of the other conference or allow intra-conference matchups between the two teams in the middle of the playoff (ex. east #3 vs. west #4).

I am a hockey guy, so I can't speak to rivalries. I think the current system is fine; but if there were an option for a 6-10 conference split (instead of 8-8) in the playoffs, I figure it would only happen in outstanding years because of the way schedules are made.

Mark said...

I like the idea of taking the teams and making the matchups regional. Although, it would be hard to have someone determine what is considered regional. Especially considering that many of the teams in the different conferences are not geographically correct. The Memphis Grizzles for example being in the Western Conferce.

In the format that you suggest, there would be a complaint from the Golden St/New Orleans people. That is a longer flight, than if you were to match-up the Hornets with a Eastern Conference team. Orlando for example.

So that would force the league to change the regular season format of playing conference opponents 4 times (some three due to expansion)and playing the oppisite conference twice (home and away). If you were to regionalize it, then you would have to play all the teams in the league a equal amount of times. I wouldn't like that change in the regular season.

Yet, with the expansion that the league is planning, there is going to have to be a change in the regular season format. I think the regionalization of the playoffs would be near if the NBA expanded over seas.